Phase 4: Earl Grey: 1830-1834 (Whig) & Lord Melbourne: 1835-1841 (Whig).

  • Parliamentary reform.
  • Revolution.
  • Condition of England reforms.
  • Chartism 1838-1839.
  • Gunboat diplomacy (Palmerston).
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Was Britain close to revolution between 1830 and 1


  • Only time working and middle classes united in campaign for political reform.
  • Riots in Nottingham, Derby, Bristol when bill was rejected in October 1831.
  • The British Political Union (BPU) announced in November 1831 that they were to arm themselves and have military training.


  • The determination of the Whigs to proceed with Reform regardless of the King and the Tories shows that revolution was unlikely.
  • Revolution was more likely to happen due to an unjust act rather than a conscious plan by Attwood and Place. If there had been a genuine revolutionary feeling, incidents like the Bristol riots could have acted as a starting point for revolution. 
  • The BPU was mainly in favour of peaceful petitions to parliament and sought limited reform.
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Why were there demands for Parliamentary reform be

  • Catholic Emancipation Act 1829: Weakened and split the Tory party as the Right-Wing Tories (Ultras) were in favour of reform just to spite Wellington, hoping to reduce the number of Rotten Boroughs (parliamentary constituencies that had declined in size but still had the right to elect members of the House of Commons). 
  • Public demand; secret ballots, annual general elections, universal suffrage in a leaflet published by Jeremy Bentham.
  • In January 1830 Thomas Attwood, a banker from Birmingham from a Tory background, set up the 'Birmingham Political Union' which aimed to unite the middle and working class which soon caught on and similar unions were set up nationwide. It won workers' support as it seemed to be the only peaceful way.
  • Many manufacturers and businessmen disliked the fact that Parliament protected themselves and their land by using things to their advantage such as the Corn Laws. Manufacturers who were losing out had to pay extra taxes on all imports traded, making them feel as though they were paying more than their fair share.
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The 1832 Reform Act: Why was there resistance to r

  • Some believed that the system had worked well in the past and so there was no need for change.
  • Rotten boroughs could be useful as they let both parties introduce new members to the Commons and allowed unpopular ministers to win seats.
  • People could lose their rights.
  • People who benefited from existing system would obviously oppose change.
  • Landowners feared their interests would not be served or protected if the Commons was dominated by the Middle class.
  • Peel: 'I was unwilling to open a door which I saw no prospect of being able to close'.
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How great was the Reform act?


  • Difficult to make any changes at that time, so it was a significant reform.
  • Paved the way for future change.
  • Encouraged those who wanted other reform (factories, mines. poor laws).
  • Political change - The electorate (The group of people entitled to vote in an election, sometimes referred to as the constituency) almost doubled.
  • The disappearance of so many rotten boroughs reduced the crown's influence in politics.

Not Great

  • Not much was achieved.
  • The working class were excluded.
  • No secret ballot: bribery, corruption and influencing the vote continued.
  • The system was still not democratic. Only 1 in 7 males could vote. 
  • The south was still over represented.
  • The same people were still running the system, benefited aristocracy. 
  • Nationwide disappointment - The Chartist movement.
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1832 Reform Act: Constituencies


  • Most English borough constituencies had 2 MPs whereas those in Scotland, Wales and Ireland were only allowed 1. 
  • English and Irish counties were each represented by only 1 MO and both Scotland (45 seats) and Wales (25 seats) were under-represented compared with England's 489 seats.


  • The vote was given to the owners and occupiers of property rated at atleast 10 pounds.
  • The vote was given to owners  of copy-hold land and land/leases valued at 10 pounds per year, short land leases worth & tenant farmers paying 50 pounds per year.
  • Rotten boroughs disappeared, constituencies still remained, varying in size.
  • New registrations of voters led parties to form committees in constituencies to keep the rolls upto date.
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The Franchise (vote).


  • Women weren't allowed to vote at all.
  • Men who owned land and property worth 40 shillings had the vote.
  • Freeman boroughs: The vote went to all who had received freedom of city
  • Burgage boroughs: Owners of certain land and property. 
  • Scot/lot boroughs: The vote for male householders who paid local rates.
  • Potwolloper boroughs: The vote for all males who owned a house and fireplace to boil a pot on. 
  • Corporation boroughs: Only members of a corporation could vote.


  • Boroughs with a population of less than 2000 (56) lost both MPs.
  • Boroughs with a population of between 2000 and 4000 (31) lost 1 MP.
  • 143 seats were available for redistribution: 65 to counties, 65 to boroughs that never had had an MP, 8 to Scotland, 5 to Ireland.
  • The total number of MPs in the House of Commons was the same.
  • Politically aware members of the working classes disappointed: no vote. 
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  • There was no secret ballot - votes were cast openly.
  • Electors had little freedom.
  • Candidates resorted to bribery: cash, jobs etc.
  • Pocket boroughs: A valuable asset to owners who could sell nomination to the highest bidder. The local landowner would nominate an MP and a handfull of voters would approve, encouraged by a few gifts. 


  • Eligible voters registered, putting names on the electoral role for 1 shilling.
  • The electorate of Britain increased from 478000 to 813000 out of 24 million, a long way from democracy, industrial/agricultural labourers had no vote.
  • The act did not introduce voting by secret ballot.
  • Bribery, corruption and influencing continued.
  • The length of parliament stayed the same (7 years).
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Thank you :)

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